When I began bowhunting six decades ago, I could not have predicted the colossal advances in the technology we use to harvest game, particularly the changes in archery equipment. Yet bowhunters today face challenges that I did, then and now: the need to close the distance on an animal and make an ethical kill with an arrow.
This challenge and low odds of success allows archers to hunt during the elk rut, when bull elk are most vulnerable. But it’s still normally difficult, requiring archery skill, hunting expertise and a strong measure of perseverance, and often good luck. Many dedicated hunters and conservationists have worked extensively to establish and maintain this special season reserved only for those who hunt with stick and string.
The ensuing years have seen a number of attempts to diminish Montana’s bowhunting traditions by allowing the use of crossbows during archery season. Each time, Montana’s bowhunters have pointed out the threat crossbows would be to archery season opportunities. State Sen. Douglas Kary (R-Billings) just introduced S.B. 174, which would legalize the use of crossbows by the elderly and disabled during archery seasons. At 75 years old, I may be approaching the day when I will no longer be able to draw my hunting bow, but I stand firmly against this misguided legislation. I’ve had my time in the woods with a bow, and I can continue to hunt with a rifle when that day comes.
To some, this bill may seem like a reasonable attempt to increase opportunities for those who struggle to hunt. Let’s examine why this legislation is unnecessary and detrimental to Montana’s bowhunters. First, archery equipment modifications compliant with American Disabilities Act already are in place for disabled hunters. I have experimented with this equipment and found it allows anybody who can breathe to shoot a compound bow successfully using locked draw adapters, a tripod to hold up the bow, and even a breath-released trigger system. As an example of a can-do attitude, a one-armed archer I know uses his teeth to pull a longbow and is deadly accurate.
Numerous other states have tried introducing crossbows for just elderly and disabled, and eventually this has led to the full legalization of crossbows for everybody during archery season. Lastly, and without question, lethal technological advancements such as crossbows during the general archery season will lead to increased harvest rates which will result in fewer opportunities for the hunting public, either in the form of fewer animals, or the reduction in season lengths to account for the increase in hunter success.
Please leave archery seasons for archers. A five-week general season already exists for those who want to use a crossbow or, as crossbow advertisers describe them, “your next rifle.”
Greg Munther is a lifelong bowhunter and a board member of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He lives in Missoula.